Find Your Whey
Still whey-ting on results? Read on! Help is on the WHEY!!
All puns aside, have you made the decision to get healthy and fit, but now feel bombarded with information overload? Macros, micros, vitamins, pre-workout, protein powders…the list goes on and on. The internet is an awesome tool, but it can be a bit much when you are determining who or what to trust. You are like a sponge…drinking in all of the new information, and attempting to apply everything at once. That strategy can lead to disaster, frustration, and an empty wallet! The old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” sounds cliché, but is a sound approach when it comes to tackling your fitness goals.
Now first things first….before adding any supplementation, we have to check a few boxes.
- Are you eating a variety nutritious, whole foods?
- Are you filling in the gaps with a quality multi-vitamin or greens supplement?
- Are you eating enough protein to recover and replenish?
If you find that you aren’t quite hitting the mark when it comes to consuming enough protein to grow and repair lean tissue, you have come to the right place! In fact, most Americans are on the low side when it comes to consuming protein. One of the most important things to remember is that protein not only repairs our muscles, but it is also helps to replenish our skin, hair, nails, and even our gut lining!!
But what type of protein should you consume and when? Proteins account for four calories per gram consumed if you are calculating your dietary needs. Let’s take a look at what exactly a protein is and how different forms are used to supplement our nutritional needs.
Simply put, proteins are organic molecules that are composed of amino acids. They make up a large portion of every living thing, plant, or animal, including special forms such as collagen (for supportive tissue), hemoglobin (for transport), antibodies (for immune defense), and enzymes for metabolism. The most common supplemental forms of protein available today are whey concentrates, whey isolate, egg albumin, beef isolate, various plant proteins (pea, hemp), and collagen. Let’s simplify this a bit and match the protein source to your specific goals.
There are times when a whole food meal is neither feasible nor possible. At times like this, your goals don’t have to take a backseat to your schedule. A quality whey concentrate would work best in this situation.
What is whey? Whey protein is the byproduct of making cheese. Once the solid portion, the curds, are removed, the protein-rich liquid left behind is whey. I guess Little Miss Muffet knew a few things about making those gains (LOL)!! The liquid whey is then dried and powdered to create whey protein powder. At this point, the whey left over is considered whey concentrate, as it still has some of the milk solids present. Since this is a more calorie dense product, whey concentrate is recommended for whole food meal substitution. Pre-workout is also another prime time for consumption of a whey concentrate.
If the whey is processed further by removing more of the fats, sugars, and other micronutrients, the result is whey isolate. Whey Isolate is easier to digest and is often the choice of athletes for post workout recovery. The goal of the post workout meal is to signal the body to turn on protein synthesis, bringing it out of catabolism (tearing down) and into anabolism (building up). Quality protein supplements are produced by using cold micro-filtration so that the resulting isolate isn’t denatured by the process. It is important to avoid brands that use chemical processes or heat during extraction, as this will compromise the product. Denatured protein sources cannot be readily utilized the body. In other words, the structure of the amino acids within the protein has been oxidized by exposure to heat or acids. KKW Recommends Bowmar Protein for Whey!
Like whey, casein protein is also derived from milk. The main difference between the two is the rate at which the body absorbs them. During the processing of milk, casein protein forms a jelly-like substance, making it a very slow-acting form of protein that is ideal to consume at bedtime. Once consumed, the amino acid profile peaks the start of protein synthesis for up to four hours after ingesting. Athletes prefer taking casein before bed because it keeps their recovering muscles in a fed state (anabolic) during sleep. KKW Recommends Bowmar Protein for Casein!
Whole eggs/egg whites are one of the most readily digestible protein sources available. One whole egg only contains about 4g of fat while bolstering 6g of protein. A single egg white has just over 3g of protein and only 17 calories! The mighty egg has one of the most complete amino acid profiles available – perfect if your goal is to recover and grow lean tissue. This is a great option for those that have lactose intolerance issues, and it can be used in the same manner as whey concentrates and isolates.
Beef isolate protein is another specialty protein source. This one is kind of tricky, as the addition of the word “isolate” leads one to believe that this protein is sourced from beef flesh and would be used to restore muscle glycogen. This is not the case. It is sourced mostly from the parts left over…from the rooter to the tooter…so it is not recommended as a post workout supplement because it is highly processed and has questionable sourcing.
While plant proteins are all the rage right now, it takes quite a bit more calories as well as a mixture of different plant sources (pea, brown rice, hemp) to create the complete amino acid profile that is readily available in whey or egg proteins. Fear not my vegetarian friends…your gains are not lost! New studies are showing that as long as the essential amino acid profile is among the “Big Three” (leucine, valine, and iso-leucine), it is possible to gain lean tissue using plant based protein sources. As with other products, do your research and utilize sources that are free of pesticides and lead. KKW recommends Vega Proteins- our vegan clients have had great results!
I know you have all been patiently waiting for this one! What about Collagen Protein? This is the latest supplement that is being touted as “the new best thing,” but is it new? Not at all! Remember when your granny used to cook up a pot of chicken noodle soup when you weren’t feeling well? She didn’t go out and purchase canned soup or stock; she made her own broth from chicken bones, herbs, spices, and vegetables. The connective tissue that cooked down into that delicious home remedy chicken soup was chock full of collagen! Granny had it right! Collagen protein repairs our hair, skin, nails, and most of all our gut lining. As the research is showing, true health is measured in your gut, which needs constant replenishment to provide a healthy barrier and proper digestion. Collagen does so many good things, it must be good for post workout, too?! Well… yes and no. Collagen is actually a great addition to any of the other protein sources mentioned here, but shouldn’t be taken alone as a meal replacement or recovery agent. I often add it to my post-workout shakes as well as my bedtime meals. Why? As we strive to take care of our waistline and our muscles, it is also important to remember to take care of our joints and ligaments! Lean tissue doesn’t just mean your muscles, but also your connective tissue as well. When choosing a collagen supplement, make sure that it contains collagen type 1 and collagen type III in a single product. Collagen type II should be taken absent of the other types so that absorption is not hindered. Also, look for a grass-fed/grass-finished product that is unflavored and devoid of sugars. KKW Recommends Dr. Axe for Collagen!
Putting it all together
I know this has been quite a bit of information. Feel free to use the chart below to help you match your protein source with your goals!
As always, quality does matter. Do your due diligence by researching potential brands. Websites like cleanlabelproject.org, informed-choice.org, and labdoor.com are just a few online sources that can help lead you the right “whey!” Gains are coming!
LaKeisha Kanen is a Navy veteran, wife, and mother. In 2013 she earned her natural pro status in women’s physique. She is a NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist and the Lead Competition Prep coach for KK Wellness Consulting.